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posted: 6/24/2014 3:41 PM

Bradley family promoted education in Arlington Hts.

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When I go searching into Arlington history, I don't expect to go any further back than 1836 when Asa Dunton arrived on our "heights" with his wife Lois and six kids.

But when I recently got to talking to Tim Bradley, great-great-grandson of William Dunton's friend Peter Bradley, I was suddenly all the way back to Alfred the Great, reputedly an ancestor of Tim's. Tim calls him casually "the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon kings."

Tim's forebear, Peter Bradley, has always been a part of Arlington's mystique because William Dunton, after he platted out our village, wrote "Bradley" across the plat.

He wanted to honor his friend Bradley by naming his town after him. But there was another town called Bradley in Illinois so William Dunton called his new village Dunton instead of Bradley. And so it remained for some years.

Bradley would have been a good name selection because the Bradleys have represented the progressive element in our town throughout its history. The family came from England via Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Fred Bradley, Tim's grandfather, was an enthusiastic follower of progressive icon Robert LaFollette, a Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator. Bradley's wife Blanche who graduated from high school, a rare event in her day, was a dynamic supporter of the Temperance movement.

It may not seem progressive from the modern viewpoint of Prohibition as a disaster, but drinking was a curse on the working class in the early 20th century, and it did seem that controlling drinking would improve family life.

Fred Bradley served as highway commissioner for Elk Grove Township, as did his son Ronald. They had brought with them from Canterbury, according to Fred's granddaughter, Mary Jane Vermillion, a reputation for being "too honest. There was no use trying to get a favor from Fred Bradley."

But the Bradley's salient contribution to our town's progressive spirit was support of education. There were a few students taking high school classes in the old North School building. There were another few who commuted to Schurz High School in Chicago.

But many local farmers, whom Mayor Albert Volz characterized as "tight-fisted, saw no need for their sons to attend high school when what they were going to do was take over the family farms. Their fathers were preparing them for that.

People like the Bradleys realized that as Arlington grew it would prosper if it had its own town high school. Fred Bradley risked his farm as collateral during negotiations to build a free-standing high school building.

"His name is on the cornerstone," Tim Bradley reports proudly.

Another aspect of the Bradley tradition is a certain panache, maybe best exemplified by Gladys, one of Fred's six kids who lived on the family farm on Arlington Heights Road south of Central Road.

It was a long hike to North School just south of Euclid every day and Gladys rebelled when she tired of walking by sitting down in the middle of the road "crying and making a fuss," according to her niece Mary Jane Vermillion.

"She made her brothers take turns carrying her until they got to North School."